September 2014 | | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 6, Issue 9]

Kids Getting Too Much Sodium

Sodium is everywhere. It’s in the salt you eat, and it’s found in most of the heavily processed and prepackaged foods that you buy at the grocery store. Restaurant food isn’t much better. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids are getting too much sodium.

U.S kids get way too much salt, CDC finds

This news story from NBC News says that about 90 percent of kids are getting too much -- as much as 30 percent more sodium than what is currently recommended. Researchers found that kids are eating about 3,300 milligrams per day when they should be consuming about 2,300 milligrams per day.

Consuming too sodium is linked to high blood pressure and maybe more importantly, much of the food that is high in sodium is low in nutritional value.

Things to do at school:

  • Explain which foods are high in sodium.
  • Talk about ways to reduce sodium by choosing low-sodium versions or by eating more fresh foods.
  • Have your students determine how to order low sodium foods on a menu.
But Some Good News– Families Eating Less Junk Food

Junk foods are packaged foods that are high in calories from fat and sugar and low in vitamins, minerals and fiber. They’re popular, though, because they’re easy to serve and many people like the taste. The problem is they’re bad for your health.

But a recent study finds that the average family in the U.S. is eating less junk food.

Households with kids ate less junk food in 2012 than ’07, report says

This news story from the LA Times says that in 2012, the average family bought about 100 fewer calories from junk food per person per day. But, while that’s good news, the researchers also found that consumption of good stuff like whole grains and legumes isn’t going up, so there’s more work to do.

What to do in school:

  • Talk about why junk foods are bad for kids and adults.
  • In foods class, help students discover easy recipes that use inexpensive but healthful ingredients.
  • Have students find healthier alternatives to low-quality pre-packaged foods.
Helping Kids Fight Food Cravings

Kids may have more trouble with food cravings than adults and teens if a new study is correct. That’s the bad news. The good news is that with a little help, they can control them. Worth considering because although most dietary interventions for kids focus on removing high-calorie foods, it’s tough to remove access to all junk foods.

Food craving is stronger, but controllable, for kids

A new study published in Psychological Science had kids look at pictures of foods. With some of the foods, the researchers told the kids to imagine what the food smelled and tasted like, but with other foods, they told the kids to focus on what the food looked like.

Then they asked the kids how much they wanted to eat the foods in the pictures. The study team found that kids reported less craving for the foods they had focused on visually.

What else to do with food cravings:
  • Take a walk or get some exercise before reaching for that food you’re craving.
  • Eat regular meals and snacks every day – it’s harder to beat a craving when you’re hungry.
  • Grab something healthy – like an apple and a handful of walnuts – instead of a candy bar or bag of cookies.
Fast Action on TV Means More Snacking

Snacking while watching TV can become a little mindless, so you’re more likely to consume more calories than you need. But is it possible that certain types of TV shows and movies can make you snack even more? Could be…

Action-packed TV a threat to your waistline?

This news story from MedlinePlus describes a study from Cornell University that had college students choose from an array of snacks while watching either an action move or a talk show.

They found that students who watched the action movie ate twice as much as those students who watched the talk show.

So should you plan your snack before you queue up a Netflix flick? Probably. I think that’s a good idea anyway.
Different Diets – Similar Results

You know those ‘name’ diets you see and hear about, like the Atkins Diet or the Zone Diet? There are so many of them out there, and it’s difficult to know which one is best. So recently some researchers in Ontario wanted to figure out if any one brand stood out as being more effective.

Turns out they’re all about the same.

Comparison of named diet programs finds little difference in weight loss outcomes

This news story from Science Daily describes the study. The researchers combined and reanalyzed the statistics from 59 previously published research articles that focused on brand name diets and weight loss.

They found that after 12 months the average weight loss with the low carb-diets was about 19 pounds and low-fat diets resulted in a little less than 18 pounds.

What could this mean?

  • Rather than arguing about the scientific merits of one of the other, maybe choose the one that’s most appealing to you.
  • If you pick one and it doesn’t work, then try another. The study didn’t look at diet switching, but turning to a new diet might be beneficial.
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How To Eat Healthy on the Weekends

After working hard all week, you're ready for some rest and relaxation on the weekend -- and that mindset seems to extend to your diet.

You start with high-calorie appetizers on Friday night with friends. On Saturday, you graze through the food court while shopping at the mall, then go out for a big dinner that night. On Sunday, you feel a little lazy, so you lounge on the couch, watch television and snack on chips and dip.

Your mindless weekend binge just ruined an entire week of healthy eating.

Next the guilt sets in. You get back to your routine diet on Monday; you feel bad and vow to eat right next weekend. But then Friday comes around, and the whole cycle starts all over again.

This is a common scenario. But don't despair -- with a little thought and preparation, you can continue to eat healthily and still enjoy your weekends. 

1. Plan Ahead
Don't load up your kitchen with lots of tempting, high-calorie snacks. Keep fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grain crackers, and a little cheese and nut butter on hand for nutritious snacking.

2. Don't Skip Breakfast
Start Saturday and Sunday mornings with a healthy breakfast with plenty of protein and fiber. Don't ruin your breakfast with high-fat and high-calorie foods. Good choices include one egg, whole grain cereal with low-fat milk, or whole-wheat toast with peanut butter.

3. Keep a Food Diary
This is a great way to stay motivated. Studies show that people who keep track of what they eat have tend to have better weight loss results. You can keep a food diary or use one of many excellent smart phone apps.

4. Treat Yourself - Just a Little
Any diet that leaves you feeling deprived will ultimately fail. Enjoy a small piece of chocolate, candy or one scoop of ice cream during the week. Be careful with portion size, though, you don't want to take in too many extra calories.

5. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
They're low in calories, and high in nutrients and fiber. Fiber is key -- it will keep you feeling full longer. Nibble on fresh fruits and veggies to tide you over until your next meal.

6. Be Careful with Menus
Most restaurants serve very large portions. Choose a cup of soup and a salad, or a salad and an appetizer for your meal. If you order a large meal, take half of it home for lunch the next day.

7. Be Careful at the Mall
Eat a healthy lunch before you go shopping. If you go while you're hungry, there's a better chance you'll give in to the temptation of junk foods at the food court.

8. Get Physical Activity
Go for a walk. Not only will you burn calories, the exercise will improve your mood and might distract you from your cravings.

9. It's Okay if You Slip Up Now and Then
Don't beat yourself up if you have an occasional weekend food binge. It happens to all of us at one time or another. Make your next snack or meal a healthy one.

More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Social networking sites can help obese lose weight: study

Report: U.S. obesity crisis may be stabilizing, especially in kids

Fat shaming doesn’t encourage weight loss

One in five U.S. Households with children were food-insecure at some time in 2013

About Shereen Jegtvig

Shereen Jegtvig is a health and nutrition writer with two decades of experience counseling people on nutrition and diet. She has a master’s degree in human nutrition and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Shereen writes about nutrition for the large website (, is co-author of Superfoods for Dummies ( and Clinical Anatomy for Dummies ( She also teaches Evidence Based Nutrition to nutrition graduate students at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.